After licking their wounds (lots of licking is done) from their dreaded encounter with the Necrarch vampire, the party opt to staying on the east bank, hoping, praying… that Brother Valdric was right, and that the fiend cannot cross running water.
Once the morning comes, and relief is had that they are still very much alive – just about -, they decide on what to do. Durgin, the dwarf slayer, calls for a meeting.
Everyone is assembled, and much discussion is had on what to do now in relation to this threat. Durgin says that he plans to fight it at any opportunity given, but he does not expect the party to share that risk.
“It’s toying with us, playing with us. That thing is immensely powerful. I should know. I fought it for a full night, and still I only sensed that it was playing with me,” says Durgin.
Yet the party know that not much can be done – they decide that their best course of action is to get to Kemperbad, and perhaps head for a Temple of Morr to seek aid once again from them.
Ulrico tends to their wounds as the party continue down river. It will take nearly a month for them to reach Kemperbad, and they are only 7 days now into their journey!
The weather is kind and warmer now than before. Summer is only around the corner, and the party can look forward to warmer nights and longer days!
There’s also tension to be had… Tafwick, the halfling rogue is causing a stir with Borri as they exchange some heated words. Ever since Tafwick lost one of Borri’s daggers in a game of ‘toss the dagger’, the two have not seen eye-to-eye. Durgin and Borri however have made-up. The two were avoiding one another and refusing to talk to one another, but after sharing some company together on a watch along with some Josef Bugman’s Triple-X branded ale, the two dwarfs have started taking a liking to each other.
The next day passes by. The morning and early afternoon is relatively uneventful. But it seems Durgin has something on his mind when shouting is heard from the slayer, “TAFWICK!”
Tafwick, fearing for his life and unsure if he did something wrong… scampers up the mast of the barge as quick as a feline. Eckhardt even gives him a slight boost.
Durgin shouts for him to come down, promising him that he won’t harm the little fella. After some persuasion, Tafwick climbs down and the two have a not-so private conversation at the end of the barge. It seems Durgin is looking for a new Rememberer, and Tafwick had already approached the dwarf indirectly concerning it. But Durgin states that it wouldn’t be right to seek one out until the threat of the vampire is dealt with, post-haste. Then perhaps Tafwick will be given the honor of such a duty. However, Durgin says that should he fall in battle with the ferocious fiend, then Tafwick is to send word of his death to the Slayer King at Karak-Kadrin.
The barge continues its way down the river, and comes to a slight bend. However the party were not paying attention and didn’t notice another barge coming up on them, a much larger barge with a scorpion bolt thrower at the front of it!
They see a flag hoisted up, and instantly recognize it as the imperial insignia – an imperial cross with a skull in the middle of it.
They hear a voice shout, “Ahoy there! Imperial Riverwardens! Drop your anchor and prepare to be boarded. This is not a request!”
Borri immediately drops the anchor and Ulrico who is playing the role of the captain of the barge steps up on deck. Kall Horst and Eckhardt, both wanted men… put on their shallya masks and head down below deck, while the rest act casually.
The barge pulls alongside them and they get boarded by the Riverwarden captain. Several marines are also on hand, watching carefully.
– Riverwarden Captain
The captain boards their barge flanked by two other wardens. Tafwick takes a keen interest in her, even going as far as to boldly wink at her, but its ignored as her full attention is on Ulrico.
“Are you the captain?”
“Yes,” he replies.
Ulrico hands over his registration papers, courtesy of the Palisades.
“Well Herr Gutter,… are these your passengers?”
Ulrico tells her that the two dwarfs are (lucky they didn’t see Borri driving the barge, or that would be a conundrum needing to be explained!) passengers but that the halfling is the chef, and that he has two crewman down below that are sick, possibly with food poisoning.
She drills him further, asking about his destination, which he gives as Kemperbad, and what he’s trading in. Her two lackey’s start searching the barge as she makes her way over to the dwarfs.
Borri’s missing hand is commented on, to which he tells her he lost it in a forging accident. She also notices Durgins injuries, but not much is said to Durgin. In fact, he’s mostly ignored by the captain.
Heading down below deck, they do a quick search. Eckhardt is given a brief look over as is Kall, but none are given a good glance on account that the riverwardens don’t want to catch whatever it is they may have.
Durgin and Borri catch a glimpse of another figure on the other barge that wasn’t there before, looking over at them with steely eyes…
He goes back down below after giving the barge a good look over.
Satisfied, the captain boards her barge and bids them a safe journey. Phew!
The rest of the day goes peachy, and it is the next morning.
Borri wakes up puffy eyed and sore. After Ulrico gives him a good looking over, he realizes that somehow, stinging powder was sprinkled over his face. Similar to the same kind of powder Franz Baumann used back in Bogenhafen, which Kall Horst managed to secure a bag of. Suspicion immediately falls on him!
But he checks his stock of powder… they are still there.
Borri is confused, and even more so when he notices that some crowns are missing! 6 crowns to be exact… He spends most of his time searching down below, getting frustrated.
It is evening time when the party come across something of interest…
They spot a tower of some sort in the middle of being built, and along with two dwarfs on the bank who shout over, “Hey there! Can you give us a ride! We’ll pay!”
They shout again a few times as the crew discuss what to do. Finally Borri shouts back asking how much?
But he’s interrupted when another voice, this one stern and angry, shouts “Oi! You two! Get your scrawny hairy asses back to that tower and help with those beams, or I’ll swear on the ancestors I’ll send both of your names to the book of grudges!”
The two dwarfs totter back to the tower, their heads hanging low. The dwarf who was doing the shouting introduces himself, “Hey there strangers! Sorry about that! The names Grott Isembeard, what can I do for ya!”
Borri recognizes the tower, and comes to realization that this is the signal tower that his guild leader was talking about, althrough Borri had refused the request for aid. Awkward!
Some dialogue is exchanged between the two. Borri tells him that Higmar Hammerfist sent him, but any mention of ‘helping them’ is avoided as Borri says they are on their way to Kemperbad. Grott is about to let out a flurry of frustration when he spots Durgin…
“Is that… wait, can’t be! Is that a slayer!”
“Your eyes don’t deceive ya,” replies Durgin.
“Then perhaps you can lend me your ear in private?”
Durgin makes no delay in heading over to him, followed by the curious halfling, who insists that he’s only present to confer with the others of what’s being said.
“Listen… I need ya help,” says Grott Isembeard, “See this here tower? Know what that is? It’s a signal tower… and it’s the last one we need to build. Now, 12 of us came here to do a job from the Dwarfen Engineers Guild, and we aim to complete it. But… we are already behind schedule, because only 6 of us remain. Yes, only 6. The others… they have died, and we don’t know what it is that’s doing it. Some have become paralyzed, stiff as mortar. Hard as iron. Others, have gone missing. And a couple have round up chewed and half-eaten. Morale is at an all time low, as you can tell from those two cowardly laggards, and I myself am at my wits end. Listen, all I’m asking is that you, and perhaps your companions, spend a night in the tower. Just one night. It will give my lads a good morale boost, and, if perchance something does show up, I’ve certainly got faith in someone like you to defeat whatever this fiend is that is preying on my boys.”
Durgin doesn’t hesitate in wanting to help, but admits his companions may need some enticement. He heads back and discusses it with the crew.
They are all onboard depending on what reward is offered, other than Borri and Durgin who are happy to help fellow Dawi in need.
They approach Grott again regarding enticement; Grott says that he can pay them 5 crowns each… “And perhaps I can throw in… no, actually, never mind.”
Durgin presses him to be open, and Grott says that he has a surplus keg of explosives stuffed with gunpowder in stock, on account of their previous demolition work on the other towers.
“Yes, that will do. Definitely. Yes. Certainly,” is the collective response.
Realization soon dons on what this means… And within a space of 5 minutes of being promised a keg of gunpowder, there is talk already about blowing up the signal tower!
Borri is firmly against it, but the rest, at least from those that expressed their opinions on the matter (Tafwick, Eckhardt and Durgin) seem to be in favor of a big kaboom. The party suspect that the fiend that is causing the recent deaths may be the Necrach. This is further suspected by Durgin when he is shown one of the bodies of the dwarfs.
The now rotting – and very much chewed – corpse of Alf Skiddensson, one of the first to have died. Questions arise as to why this body has not disappeared like the others. Durgin however gets a strange ‘whiff’ from it, other than the fact that it just flat-out stinks. The whiff he detects is the same taint he briefly sniffed on Borri’s hand when he chopped it off. Tomb Rot. Durgin further suspects the vampire is involved. Eckhardt has his doubts as this doesn’t seem to be the modus operandi of this particular vampire.
Discussion is had once inside the signal tower as to how they might trap what they suspect may be the vampire. The party believe that if the vampire can be lured into the tower, then they can hopefully detonate the powder keg within, providing a narrow window of escape. Eckhardt goes on to further explain that back in Weissbruck, he encountered his first vampire at an inn. It had climbed up to his window, yet it couldn’t enter. Instead, it looked straight into Eckhardt’s eyes and commanded him to ‘invite it’ in, which he promptly did. If this Necrach suffers from this same weakness, they would need to invite it in first…
But, someone states, “Hang on… if this thing has killed other dwarfs while inside the tower, then that means…”
“It’s already here!”
Before further plans are made, the party realizes that this is all for naught unless they can get Grott Isembeard to agree to allowing them to, well… potentially blow up their tower! Bloody vandals!
Durgin approaches Grott. It doesn’t go down well…
“Blow up my tower! WHAT! Ya must be having a laugh, surely! A jest!”
Durgin tells Grott that this vampire is extremely powerful, and this is the safest way in dealing with it without others potentially suffering from its wrath. The other option, is to get on the barge and simply leave. Grott replies to that notion…
“Leave! … Let me ask you something. Have ya got any rope with ya? You do? Good! Cause you might as well tie a noose and head out to one of those trees out there and toss it around my neck, and kick the bucket from under me. Cause that’s what will happen to me and my lads if we leave. This isn’t just some sodden tower! This is an imperial signal tower. We are on commission from the Empire. If we just abandon our post, then we’ll all be hanged for sure for desertion on duty.”
“But surely if we blow up the tower, you can build again, right?”
“It would take months with 6 of us!”
Back and forth the discussion is had. But each time, Grott gets nearer to the conclusion that if they continue as they are, there will be no one left to do the job. Durgin, with much effort, eventually wins him over…
“Perhaps… perhaps your right. Enough of my brothers have died. If we were to rebuild, I would like to do it knowing that we are safe. If this is the cost of that… then so be it. But I’ll warn you, the lads won’t like it! I’ll have to do this on the sly, at least up until the explosion of course. I’ll have to get them drunk on fine strong ale, which I’m running low on.”
With Grott Isembeard on-board, now the party just have to come up with a plan that doesn’t involve blowing themselves up into fleshy bits.
And this… this is why the party should not have nice things to play with.